Lands for the people
In a one-party state, the interlocking interests of our federalized division of government, creates a political condition where a representative government itself becomes a vested interest. “Serving the common good” becomes a euphemism for “self-serving.” Gov. Abercrombie has been explicit; he intends to develop public lands jointly with the private land developers to make the most money to pay for state programs and services. This bilateral approach leaves the residents of Hawaii out of the mix. It more closely resembles the government that displaced the monarchy than a representative limited government, established by a written Constitution to serve the common good.
The state proposes to build the tallest building in the Islands in Kakaako. The Kamehameha Schools Trust, which owns the adjoining lands, plans 22 other high-rise erections. This is land development for maximum return on investment–the taller the building the greater the number of buyers on the same footprint, and the more expensive the units the higher it goes. Seen in community terms, the taller the building, the higher the cost of living for those who cannot afford to buy, let alone move in, because it sustains the market price for all consumable items, particularly food that has to be flown in. Who benefits? The rich who want a Hawaiian pied-a-terre and can afford it, the fee simple land developers and now, the state government. The assertion that high-rises preserve agriculture land is bogus; it merely lays the seeds for future suburban development on former plantation farmland holdings so the current owners can maximize their profits through the sale of home sites to Hawaii resident commuters who work where they cannot afford to live.
Therefore, to benefit the citizens of the state, I propose that we affix a service tenure common land benefit to any new residential, single-story or high-rise, built in Hawaii:
1. For the erection of any residential building of ten stories or less, an area equal to the square footage of the useable space (including the parking area) must be matched by setting aside an equal area of agricultural land for cultivation in a Public Lands Trust. Without this prerequisite, a building permit cannot be issued. For every additional 10 floors of height, the additional area within the higher range doubles the area of farm land that must be set aside. Thus, the vast holdings held by Kamehameha Schools Trust and others can be set aside and the old plantation irrigation systems created by the plantation economy can be adapted for the cultivation of food on all islands. The common good would set the height limit for land development, not the maximum profits that might be derived from the project for the owners and the state government (The PLDC, or its modified “Gang of Five”) to use for their pleasure or programs.
2. Once having the agricultural land in a Public Lands Trust, the criteria for a service tenure agreement with the cultivators becomes a political task for the state and local and federal governments to resolve. The test, a measured outcome, will be an ethical one: How will all of those involved and all of those residing in the Islands benefit? How will the cost of living be reduced, and the quality of life of all Hawaii’s residents improved?
3. Now you can see why the PLDC fails. The fact that a better alternative is not presented is a failure of the political process–a one-party system. PLDC is a joint-venture system between the state and the private developers for maximum cash profits.
In Hawaii we pretend that letting the system go fallow will eventually pay off, when we cannot come up with a better solution. Like the neglect of the Natatorium in Honolulu, “benign neglect” can kill without apparent conflict, but the rot reflects the decadence in our representative government. Ironically, if no one leads, those who do nothing are re-elected, and no one claims responsibility for anything because they do not want to lose, nor be blamed. “Cowards in Congress” might be a good name for a new TV series to keep the masses entertained, and seated. The Hawaii sequel appears to be “Hawaii Five-Zero.” Folks, let’s not be entertained any longer.
As we begin to see why our leaders have been elected, however, it becomes easier to remove them from office. Become an informed voter as the need for a sustainable future and community grows. The best use of land for the common good evokes ethical standards that eventually reveal neglect itself to be unethical.
Robert Tellander Honolulu, HI